Darkside - The Observatory - January 26, 2014
As soon as I walked into The Observatory last night, the room was sweaty, a little stinky and extremely packed. The hype surrounding Nicholas Jaar and Dave Harrington's newest project brought the hippies, hipsters and EDM lovers together to witness the genre-defying music Darkside is known for. Once the duo took the stage, the sold out crowd roared as it squirmed in excitement. Opening with "Golden Arrow" off of the acclaimed debut album, Psychic, Jaar and Harrington demonstrated their ability to blend psychedelic guitar riffs and percussion over pounding beats and ground-shaking bass.
The eclectic pair were backed by a circular mirror that projected an ominous ring of light into the crowd. Periodically, the musicians disappeared in colorful clouds of smoke, making the performance even more of a spectacle. Harrington, whose back was turned to the audience many times through out the set, showcased his mastery on guitar and synthesizer, while Jaar welded samples together, played the keyboard and occasionally provided lyrics to songs.
The tribal rhythm of "The Only Shrine I've Seen" and the looping guitar riffs of "Heart" were familiar, but the elements of each song were arranged slightly different. The majority of the set reflected the dark tones of the duo's wide-ranging album, but Jaar, who's known for his stellar improvisation, took every opportunity he had to incorporate a driving percussion and a dropping bass, causing the enthused crowd to erupt in dance.
After an hour of performing songs on Psychic, the duo came on for a final encore. Jaar and Harrington invited saxophonist Will Epstein to perform the most experimental (and noisiest) song of the set, "Greek Light." As Jaar introduced Epstein to the audience, he also mentioned that Epstein is one of Harrington and his best friends, making it a special collaboration. As soon as the trio began, each musician unleashed an unbelievable amount of energy onto their instruments, finishing out the set with chaotic sounds and squeaks of the saxophone.
Although the final encore was a bit on the noisy side, the overall performance lived up to the hype. The chemistry between Harrington and Jaar is undeniable, making them unlike any other current electronic act. Needless to say, their Coachella performance in April is one of much anticipation.
Critical Bias: I was bitter I didn't get to see Darkside's SoCal debut last November at the Roxy. Last night was redemption!
The Crowd: Lots of dreadlocks, Spanish speakers and sweaty drunkards.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I have more than one stranger's sweat on me."
Random Notebook Dump: I miss the good ol' days when parking in the Carl's Jr. parking lot for a show at the Observatory was allowed. I don't dig paying 10 bucks to park!